Jack Sullivan ’17 Named Prestigious American Cancer Society Fellow

Jan 09, 2019

Assumption’s Jack Sullivan ’17, of Stony Point, NY, has been awarded a prestigious fellowship to conduct cancer research this summer at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Cancer Center in Boston. Sullivan is the fourth student from Assumption to be selected for this highly-sought fellowship.

Sullivan was awarded the Alvan T. and Viola D. Fuller – American Cancer Society Junior Research Fellowship. According to the American Cancer Society, the fellowship offers undergraduate students and recent graduates from New England an opportunity to participate in laboratory research with accomplished cancer research investigators. The fellowship includes a $4,500 stipend and housing to conduct 10 weeks of research on myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) in the Zou Laboratory, which is named for Lee Zou, Ph.D., associate scientific director at MGH Cancer Center. MDS is a bone marrow disorder in which the body does not produce enough healthy blood cells and can eventually lead to acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Sullivan’s research focuses upon finding DNA damage that occurs at a specific region for MDS patients, and use that specific region as a target for therapeutics.  

“This fellowship will allow me to work alongside professionals who have already received their Ph.D., and are willing to share their wisdom and experiences with me to prepare me for a career in science,” said Sullivan. “This experience has furthered my desire to pursue cancer research, and it has put me in a great position to pursue a degree in higher learning or potentially move into the biotech industry.  My courses at Assumption provided me with the knowledge and technical skills that are necessary to pursue research, and provided a strong foundation for my continued learning.”

“The selection of Jack and other Assumption students demonstrates the strength and value of its natural sciences program,” said Aisling S. Dugan, Ph.D., associate professor in Assumption’s Department of Natural Sciences. “We work hard to prepare our students on the fundamental theories of biology and also train them to have the practical laboratory skills for work in an research intensive envirnoment.

“Having four Assumption students awarded the Fuller Fellowship in the last four consequentive years indicates our students are prepared to make meaningful contributions in the course of the research fellowship,” Prof. Aisling added. “This reflects Assumption’s reputation for producing exceptional candidates in the field of biomedical research who are well-prepared for a number of stimulating opportunities upon graduation. We plan to continue to forge a relationship with the Fuller Fellowship program, and  encourage hard working and top performing science students to apply in the future.”

Sullivan has already begun his research on DNA damage repair, in particular its relation to MDS. The research seeks to understand the specific mechanisms behind the DNA damage repair that contribute to this disease and how to best treat it.  

According to Mass General, Dr. Zou and his team have characterized DNA damage checkpoints, a pathway that detects and signals various types of problems in the genome; identified the critical sensors of DNA damage in human cells, and elucidated how these sensors activate the ATR kinase, a master regulator of the DNA damage response; and the findings of their research have shed important light into a fundamental cellular process that is critical for both tumor suppression and cancer therapy.

Other Assumption students who have been selected for the fellowship in the past include Andrea Clapp ’14, Shannon Martin ’15, and Katerina Fella ‘16.